Boeing makes leadership changes after new 787 delay

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A shuffling of leadership posts accompanied the confirmation by Boeing of a major new flight-test and delivery delay for the 787 programme.

Carolyn Corvi, the No 2 executive at Boeing Commercial Airplanes, will retire as vice-president and general manager for airplane programmes.

Her departure makes room for Boeing to promote Pat Shanahan, who was appointed vice-president and general manager for the 787 only 14 months ago. The top 787 manager will be Scott Fancher, who last year also succeeded Shanahan as the company's top manager for missile defence programmes.

Shanahan's new role is expanded to manage all commercial production and development programmes, but he will still have direct "oversight and accountability" for the 787 programme, Boeing says.

Boeing is also to merge its manufacturing and quality division with the supplier management, fabrication and propulsion systems group. "We're establishing a supply chain management and operations organisation," Randy Tinseth, Boeing vice-president of marketing, writes on his blog. "This is meant to provide improved oversight and alignment of the entire supplier network."

The airframer has named former vice-president of sales Ray Conner to head the new organisation.

The executive and organisational realignment come as Boeing confirms that the 787's first flight has been delayed until the second quarter of 2009. First delivery to launch customer All Nippon Airways has also been postponed from the third quarter of 2009 to the first quarter of 2010. Both milestones are now running nearly two years behind schedule.

Boeing blamed the most recent delay on the 57-day strike by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and the discovery of thousands of fasteners mishandled on each 787 now being assembled.

Both disruptions frustrated Boeing's efforts to recover from supply chain breakdowns that caused an 18-month schedule delay. Other issues, such as an unexpected redesign of the centre wing box, had already complicated the recovery, but were not supposed to cause a new delay.

Since missing its original first flight date in August 2007, Boeing has changed the programme's leadership twice, restructured the supply chain by buying out Vought's half of Global Aeronautica and reorganised its manufacturing and supply chain groups.

ANA, meanwhile, may seek compensation from Boeing for the latest 787 delay. The carrier says it can not be compensated for delays caused by industrial action at Boeing, but the delay caused by the fasteners problem is a separate matter: "We will look at it as a whole and then decide whether it is appropriate to seek further compensation," the airline says.

ANA already has nine Boeing 767-300ERs on order as interim lift to make up for earlier 787 delays, but may now need more.

The latest delays came as a new, unidentified customer ordered 15 aircraft of unspecified variant, taking the 787 firm orderbook to 910 units.